BMC to demolish Shivaji Chhatrapati Maharaj fish market

Nearly a decade after declaring the structure extremely dangerous, and a year after issuing notices to the vendors to vacate the premises, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will finally be demolishing the Shivaji Chhatrapati Maharaj fish market near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market or Crawford Market in South Mumbai taking into consideration the requirements of fisherfolk who operate from there. The Bombay High court had last week asked the civic body to chalk out plans to relocate the fish vendors to an alternate accommodation, present a detailed plan of demolition in an affidavit and table it by January 6, 2020.

Municipal markets and fish markets in Mumbai are an integral part of the city. Most of its municipal markets need urgent repair. The civic body has, so far, failed to shift the fish wholesalers and exporters operating out of the building to an alternative accommodation. On July 3, BMC had issued a notice asking vendors and wholesalers to vacate the building, which has been declared dilapidated, within a month. What has come as a bigger blow is the alternative location offered.

According to the current plan, the civic body is planning to shift the fish vendors to Airoli Naka market in Navi Mumbai, a move that has been opposed by a group of wholesalers and fish vendors. If everything goes as planned, the civic body will be shifting fish vendors from the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fish market located near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market or Crawford Market in South Mumbai and Maa Saheb Meenatai Thakare market, near the Dadar flower market, to Airoli Naka market. However, this still needs approval from the BMC commissioner.

Majority of the vendors have agreed to shift to an alternate location. "The building is dilapidated. Instead of risking our lives or being evicted forcefully, shifting to the new market in Airoli seems to be a better option. The high court has asked the civic body to come up with a detailed plan before demolishing the building and has given a deadline till January 6 to file an affidavit before it," said Naseem Khan, one of the fish vendors in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fish market.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fish market, the city's only wholesale seafood civic-run market in south Mumbai, used to clock a daily turnover of about Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore, but was devoid of business activity for months due to coronavirus-induced lockdown. Many of the wholesalers think that shifting to Airoli will kill their business. "Vendors from across the city come here to buy fish at wholesale rates. Asking us to move to such a far off location will affect business as we may not get buyers," said one of 87 wholesalers claimed to be affected by this.

The fish market, operational since Independence, is the only retail and wholesale market in the city. It receives over 150 trucks of fish. Civic officials defended the decision saying that, as a lot of fish being sold in the market also comes via the Navi Mumbai route, creating a space for the vendors near the entrance to the city will be beneficial.

BMC plans to demolish the existing structure and construct a 14-storey highrise with a parking lot. It is likely to take three years to reconstruct the structure.

The civic body will submit its affidavit on January 6, following which the next hearing of the case has been scheduled on January 8.

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Free Press Journal